By Costas Yennaris
What neither Cyprus community would readily admit is that if one looks back at the long history of the intercommunal dispute, one would find tens of examples of acts, decisions, attitudes, perceptions but also lots of myths that have nothing to do with reality and concern the “other side”.
There are not always innocent acts of patriotism and self-sacrifice as they would have us believe today.
And almost in each case one could actually trace expediencies, either personal or communal, or even none of the above as they were directives from abroad to do one thing or avoid doing another.
Take the Greek Cypriots and their passion for enosis.
And it was a passion which blinded them to all other dimensions of the problem and generated such fanaticism that led to admirable acts of heroism or despicable acts of atrocities.
Personally, I learnt from a Turkish Cypriot (the late Arif Tahsin) how respected was Kyriakos Matsis (who died in a battle with the British colonial forces in 1957) because of his views and vision of Cyprus’ freedom, but also because he offered his professional (agricultural) assistance to all Cypriot farmers, irrespective of whether they were Greek or Turks.
Similarly, in spite of fear of “punishment” by TMT, many Turkish Cypriots, according to accounts by Greek Cypriots, offered valuable assistance to Greek Cypriots facing the British menace of the 1950s.
Ironically, it was the British that introduced policies designed to create conditions of antagonism and disputes between the two communities and exploit the divisions or the conflicts to their benefits.
That was the glory of the post war British policy of “divide and rule” and the short-sighted nationalistic policies of small elites on both sides.
For example, the British Governor of Cyprus Sir John Harding, exploited to the full Grivas’ order prohibiting any Greek Cypriot to join the British colonial police force, to invite the Turkish Cypriots to do so, offering lucrative benefits.
Later on, he even established an auxiliary police force made up entirely of Turkish Cypriots which he used to control the almost daily Greek Cypriot demonstrations against the British rule of the island.
In that way, he created the potential of conflict between them.
Thus, when the Turkish Cypriot (British) police force was trying to put down demonstrating Greek Cypriots, they came against the Greek Cypriots.
And the Turkish Cypriot leadership at the time exploited (Turkish Cypriot) injuries in the clashes between demonstrators and the colonial police.
The first Turkish Cypriot police officer to fall dead in one such clash in Paphos was fast enough declared by the Turkish Cypriot leadership “a victim of the Greek Cypriot attack on the Turkish Cypriot”.
Events of that period were overblown, according to the needs of propaganda, to the extent that they have completely escaped their own facts and became products of sick nationalistic fictions presented as reality.
The myths created in this way were forced down the throats of ordinary people as reality, to sustain the perceptions the leaders wanted the people to have in order to justify their policies.
Denktash used to tell me very often: “give me a generation and I will solve the Cyprus problem for you”.
Meaning that he would have manipulated popular perceptions to serve his political schemes.
It is within this context that one has to approach developments with the enosis decision of the House of Representatives.
The speed with which people were ready to use it as an excuse for their policies, were very reminiscent of the Fifties, indeed.
And this why the creation of a peace and reconciliation culture on both sides is of the utmost importance.
And efforts towards that end should have already been able to push aside such phenomena.
The basis is already there and there is considerable international experience in that field, too.
There is urgent need for a “Commission of Truth” to be established immediately and start work straight away.
So that phenomena like those we lived through during the last few days, will not become obstacles hindering progress and peace.